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Archive for the ‘Governor’s Office’ Category

Here’s a story no one saw coming:

There’s political chicanery afoot in Baton Rouge.

Who’d-a-thunk it?

Okay all that was said tongue-in-cheek.

Unfortunately.

The truth is, we’ve become so inured to political sleaze in Louisiana politics that it’s become difficult to be either surprised or outraged, leaving only indifference as our emotion of choice.

All the ingredients are in place for graft, corruption, and exploitation and there are plenty of those more than willing to take advantage of the opportunity:

  • A contract to manage Louisiana’s flood recovery program worth anywhere from 16 percent to 22 percent of $1.6 billion in federal funds;
  • A former state senator, Larry Bankston, convicted two decades ago on two counts of racketeering who now advises the State Contractor Licensing Board that has managed to insert itself into the debate over the proposed contract;
  • Claims of bid irregularities by a losing bidder;
  • Support of that claim by Bankston who neglected to mention that his son worked for one of the losing bidders;
  • Cancellation by the state of the $250,000 contract so that it may be re-advertised;
  • A potential 2019 gubernatorial candidate questioning the propriety of Bankston’s employment by that state board;
  • Up to 150,000 homes and nearly half-a-million residents affected by Louisiana floods in 2016, many of whom are still waiting for the political inertia called Restore Louisiana to start things moving so they can get back into their flooded homes.

Anytime there’s big money involved, especially federal money, the potential always exists for political and legal jockeying and manipulation. The temptation can be overwhelming.

Stephen Winham recently wrote a column for LouisianaVoice on this very subject: https://louisianavoice.com/2017/03/18/forget-blaming-fema-guest-columnist-area-reporters-correctly-place-fault-with-state-for-flood-recovery-failures/

The fact that the plight of the state’s flood victims has been obscured, seemingly forgotten, in the process of too-long delayed recovery only makes the state of affairs all the more shameful and disgusting. But when you have no voice, you are quickly forgotten in the scramble for big bucks.

And the bigger the bucks, the more greed manifests itself. And the more the greed, the less focus there is on the victims. That’s the way it’s always been and apparently that’s the way it will always be.

And hardly addressed is the issue of just what the deliverables on such a contract would be. Here we have companies crawling all over each other in order to obtain a contract which represents 20 percent of the total allocation for flood recovery.

And those companies won’t put up the first piece of drywall or sheetrock. They won’t perform any plumbing or electrical work. They won’t install any flooring or apply the first coat of paint, nor will they hammer the first nail. In short, they will do nothing meaningful toward flood recovery other than to approve payments to those who do the actual work.

But they will collect up to 20 percent of the recovery money—likely more if they can succeed at the usual practice of coming back for a contract amendment a few months down the road.

This story has received fairly significant play in the Baton Rouge area but if you’ve not kept up with The Advocate’s coverage, here’s essentially what has transpired:

A team led by IEM, a North Carolina company affiliated with several Baton Rouge engineering and consulting firms, easily had the best score—by at least 16 points—among the five teams submitting proposals and also quoted the lowest price—$250 million.

But PDRM, led by CSRS of Baton Rouge, whose bid was $65 million higher, filed an official complaint with the State Licensing Board for Contractors, pointing out that IEM did not possess a commercial contractor’s license at the time of its bid.

The Request for Proposals issued by the state, however, said only that bidding companies had to possess a license or be able to obtain one. IEM did, in fact, obtain a license prior to the time bids were opened. Ironically, PDRM, the company which blew the whistle on IEM, did not possess a contractor’s license at the time it submitted its bid either.

Bankston, legal counsel for the licensing board, opined that eligible bidders needed a contractor’s license at the time of bid submissions—and the licensing board agreed. The following day, March 17, the state decided to CANCEL IEM’s contract and re-bid the project.

By offering the opinion that he did, apparently disqualifying both IEM and PDRM in the process, the winning bid would have then gone to the third lowest bidder had not the administration decided to pull the plug on the whole thing and start over.

That third company whose bid was $350 million, $100 million higher than IEM, was Rebuild Louisiana Now and was led by a Texas firm called SLS. SLS also owns a company called DRC Emergency Services. Bankston’s son, Benjamin Bankston, works as regional manager for DRC. Larry Bankston said he was unaware his son’s firm had any relationship to any of the bidding companies when he wrote his opinion.

DRC had its own legal problems back in 2012 over payments and gratuities the company was accused of giving former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle after the firm received two CONTRACTS from the then-sheriff totaling more than $3 million.

In March 2002, the Louisiana Supreme Court REVOKED Bankston’s law license after his conviction on two counts of racketeering in 1997 in connection with then-State Sen. Bankston’s sham rental of his Gulf Shores condo to video poker operator Fred Goodson for $1,555 per week.

Bankston’s conviction was UPHELD by the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in July 1999.

Contracting board Chairman Lee Mallett of Iowa, said he retains “full confidence” in Bankston.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry DISAGREES. But Landry’s desire to run for governor against John Bel Edwards in 2019 is the worst-kept secret in Baton Rouge, so he’s going to do and say anything he can to embarrass the governor.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, also being mentioned as a potential opponent for Edwards in two years and who was instrumental in obtaining federal flood recover money for Louisiana, also takes issue with the decision to cancel the IEM contract and to start the bid process all over.

“This is very disappointing news,” Graves said, adding that the decision will only serve to further delay needed flood relief funds. “It is impossible to explain to flood victims why $1.6 billion in recovery dollars are stuck in the bureaucracy while homes remain gutted, molded and uninsulated.”

Graves said obtaining the federal money “wasn’t easy and now every time we talk to the Appropriations Committee and leadership folks, they cite the fact that we haven’t spent what we already received. It’s a concern absolutely.”

That politicians, lawyers and contractors would put their own interests ahead of those of people who have been forced out of their homes—some for a year now—only serves to drive home the point that while there has been a change of administrations in Louisiana, nothing really has changed.

Yep, there’s political chicanery afoot in Baton Rouge.

Who’d-a-thunk it?

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A 26-year Louisiana State Police (LSP) veteran from North Louisiana has been named by Gov. John Bel Edwards as the interim Superintendent of State Police to succeed Col. Mike Edmonson as State Police Superintendent, the governor’s office announced on Tuesday.

But the inside word received by LouisianaVoice is that the interim part of Maj. Kevin Reeves’ new title may be short-lived as Edwards is expected to name him the permanent superintendent in time for confirmation by the State Senate in June. State law requires the Louisiana State Police superintendent to be a trooper from within the agency’s ranks.

Reeves, a native of Baton Rouge, is a 1990 graduate of Louisiana Tech University in Ruston and currently resides in Jonesboro.

He began his career at the LSP in 1990 when he was assigned to motorcycle patrols with Troop A in Baton Rouge. His career took him to Troop F in Monroe in 1993, where he served as a squad leader for the mobile field force and as a case agent and undercover agent on narcotics investigations and operations for the Bureau of Investigations.

In 2008, he became the Troop Commander of Troop F before assuming the role of Command Inspector of Patrol Operations and Commander of Statewide Mobile Field Force Team in 2013. Major Reeves is married to Kristi Hall Reeves and they have three children – Kaleb, Kyle and Klayton. He currently makes $150,000 per year.

Reeves is scheduled to meet with Edwards on Thursday to discuss the transition in LSP administration.

His most pressing objective will be to shore up morale among the state’s 1,500 rank and file State Troopers who, despite generous pay raises, have continued to express dismay in the way in which the Baton Rouge headquarters, under its current leadership, had taken on the appearance of a frat house instead of a professional organization.

LouisianaVoice has learned that one of Edmonson’s inner circle, Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy, though bitter at not being named Edmonson’s successor, will nevertheless be retained as Reeves’ Chief of Staff.

“That’s bad,” said one retired state trooper.

It was not immediately known if Reeves had the backing of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and if so, if the retention of Dupuy was a trade-off for that support. The sheriffs were said to have been lobbying hard for Dupuy.

A veteran State Trooper described Reeves as “common sense, ethical, respected, respectable, and just as good as or better than any other choice as a permanent replacement for Edmonson. He makes good, solid decisions in the face of complicated issues when everyone else cannot. Essentially, he is polar opposite of Mike Edmonson.”

Reeves, for his part, said, “I would like to establish an atmosphere where we’re inclusive of our personnel and we encourage them to come forth with their concerns,” he said. “I am going to try to reach out to all of our employees and take that message to them.”

He said he welcomes inquiries that are ongoing by the FBI and auditors from the Division of Administration as investigations into State Police travel records and campaign contributions by the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) continue. “We need to be transparent,” he said.

LouisianaVoice also received reports, confirmed by the Legislative Auditor’s office that representatives from the that office have been in place at LSP for more than a week to carry out an audit requested by State Rep. Blake Miguez (R-Erath). An unconfirmed report also said that the FBI appeared Tuesday at the State Police Office of Management and Finance, currently overseen by Lt. Col. Jason Starnes who was promoted and placed in that position just last August.

State Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera reached out to LouisianaVoice in an effort at full disclosure Tuesday to say that the wife of Mike Edmonson’s  brother, State Police Maj. Paul Edmonson, is an auditor in his office but will take no part on the audit. “She brought it up in a meeting in our office,” Purpera said. “Our office, of course, has fire walls to separate any of our people from sensitive situations such as this.”

Edmonson, meanwhile, will host a farewell breakfast in the LSP cafeteria Friday from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. as he concludes 36 years with LSP, the last nine as superintendent.

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If there is one thing we’ve learned in the six-year existence of LouisianaVoice, it’s that if there is a political rumor floating around out there, there is generally at least a grain of truth to it.

That’s why there was no great surprise at the faint rumblings that the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association might be making a quiet push for the appointment of Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy to succeed Mike Edmonson as Superintendent of State Police.

Never mind that in Wednesday’s meeting during which Edmonson told his staff he was stepping down, he is said to have accused Dupuy of undermining him in the aftermath of that ill-fated trip to San Diego that ultimately proved to be Edmonson’s undoing.

(Incidentally, that schmaltzy six-paragraph formal statement issued by Edmonson on Wednesday as he announced his retirement was written not by Edmonson, but by Ronnie Jones, Chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. Apparently, Edmonson was more comfortable with a ghost writer than in formulating his own, heartfelt statement.)

But back to the appointment of a successor to Edmonson.

Gov. John Bel Edwards will make the appointment and if he’s adept at political hindsight, he will proceed very carefully with making this decision. He has already been publicly embarrassed by bending to the will of the sheriffs in reappointing Edmonson. He should be extremely careful about heeding the advice of the sheriffs a second time.

If Edwards chooses to listen to the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association (LSA) again without giving thorough and careful consideration to the qualifications of a number of capable, better qualified candidates, he will have proven himself as much of a political hack as anyone who has ever occupied the governor’s office.

There are several things the governor should consider before rushing in to anoint Dupuy as the next superintendent:

  • Dupuy is Edmonson’s second in command and as such, is very much a part of the overall problems of low morale now plaguing LSP—brought on by the proliferation of the good-ole-boy fraternity of upper management.
  • It was the state vehicle assigned to Dupuy—a Ford Expedition, that was driven by four troopers to that San Diego conference. That necessarily means Dupuy had to have approved the use of the vehicle for that purpose.
  • One of the occupants of that vehicle, Maj. Derrell Williams submitted expense reports that contained Dupuy’s signature of approval.

Dupuy was already a captain when Edmonson was appointed superintendent by Bobby Jindal in 2008. He was promoted to major on Jan. 28, 2010, two years after Edmonson’s appointment. Less than a year later, on Jan. 10, 2011, Dupuy was moved up to Deputy Superintendent for Operations Planning and Training.

Edmonson kept Dupuy on the career fast track, promoting him again on April 9, 2012, to Assistant Superintendent and Chief of Staff. Over that timeframe, Dupuy’s salary went from $80,000 to $161,300, an increase of 101.6 percent even as state civil service employees have been denied 3 percent cost of living increases.

Nor has that largesse been limited to Dupuy. His wife, Kelly Dupuy, was a sergeant making $59,800 when Edmonson was appointed top cop. Her acceleration through the ranks has been equally impressive. She was promoted to lieutenant on Oct. 27, 2009, just three months before her husband was promoted to major. She made captain on Oct. 25, 2014, and today makes $117,000 per year. That computes to a 95.6 percent pay increase since 2009.

Moreover, the current positions held by Kelly Dupuy and Edmonson’s brother, Maj. Paul Edmonson, did not exist before their respective promotions; their positions were created especially for them to be promoted into in the same manner in which a lieutenant colonel’s position was created last August at the specific request of Mike Edmonson on behalf of Jason Starnes.

If all that is not reason enough to give pause to Edwards in his decision on a successor to Edmonson, consider that Dupuy was Edmonson’s hatchet man when Edmonson literally tried to destroy the career of one of his troopers over a largely manufactured incident in 2010—all because the trooper had been involved in a previous confrontation with Dupuy. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/08/21/a-word-of-caution-to-state-troopers-dont-anger-the-powers-that-be-if-you-dont-want-legal-problems-like-case-from-2010/

So now the apparent frontrunner for Edmonson’s job is Charles Dupuy. He is being supported by the sheriffs and the sheriffs have the ear of the governor. From our vantage point, it would seem that Dupuy is positioned perfectly to move into Edmonson’s chair and to wreak havoc on those he thinks may have been our sources.

And while it’s a point of some smug satisfaction to know that the people he suspects are not our sources (he’s not even close), it concerns us that he would use his newfound power and his vindictiveness to go after innocent people who have done nothing more grievous than to try to do their jobs in an honest, straightforward manner.

And nothing will have changed. The for sale sign will still be a fixture at LSP headquarters.

So, Gov. Edwards, be very careful. You have already made two serious mistakes in listening to the LSA and by acceding to its wishes in reappointing Edmonson and Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections Jimmy LeBlanc. The situation there is every bit as much a ticking time bomb as LSP. You can ill-afford another Angola scandal and you certainly do not need to appoint someone at LSP who is just going to be a continuation of the current problems.

Without cleaning house at LSP and without making a wise appointment of a new reputable colonel with no political baggage, you will only be setting yourself up for more political problems that you don’t need and which will doubtless be exploited by those who want to see you fail.

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Louisiana State Police (LSP) captains were called in to headquarters in Baton Rouge on Monday to hear the news that had already leaked out across the state that Superintendent Mike Edmonson was stepping down but officially, the head of LSP’s public information office said he knew nothing of reports that he said were “above my pay grade.”

But truth be told, after the way LouisianaVoice has latched onto the sorry story at LSP, had I been in Doug Cain’s position, I probably would’ve done the same thing. I hold no ill will toward him because he was in an unenviable position. On the one hand, his job is to inform the public but on the other, he had a boss to whom he answered. I’m old enough to grasp the realities of the situation.

That boss, while defiantly denying he would resign as late as last Friday when LouisianaVoice first said he was on his way out (and we did say it first), ended his 36-year career at State Police with a whimper today with his announcement that he would resign his position as the longest-tenured superintendent in LSP history.

Today’s online edition of the Baton Rouge Advocate carried the STORY of Edmonson’s announced retirement and in so doing, tied his decision to the “widening controversy” surrounding that San Diego trip taken by Edmonson and 15 subordinates to see him receive a national award.

But that trip, including the side trip taken to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon by four troopers in a state vehicle en route to San Diego, is not the story of what is really wrong at LSP. As one veteran observer of law enforcement noted, the San Diego trip is a mere symptom of a much larger problem festering in the bowels of State Police headquarters. It was never the story.

This was a story of a State Police Superintendent who once told a group of sheriffs at a roundtable meeting at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Baton Rouge that when it came to choosing between State Police and the sheriffs, his loyalty was with the sheriffs.

There are the ever-persistent rumors of parties, too many parties being held in conjunction with official functions. They simply did not coalesce with what the image of law enforcement is supposed to be about.

There are reports, growing in number even as this is being written, of junkets to New York in private jets paid for by a police uniform vendor, to the Washington Mardi Gras celebration paid for by a local contractor, to Cancun on the private jet of a north Louisiana supporter, and of trips to gaming conferences in the company of the owner of video poker machines (Edmonson is ex-officio member of the State Gaming Commission).

There were seemingly endless reports documented and posted by LouisianaVoice of inconsistent discipline of State Troopers, depending on whether or not the trooper was in the inner circle of the Edmonson clique.

A trooper with multiple prescriptions for a controlled narcotic, instead of being disciplined for showing up to work impaired, was promoted and made commander of Troop D in Lake Charles.

A married lieutenant who, along with a few buddies and a couple of single female “bartenders,” took a borrowed limo to a Vicksburg casino. At the casino, he took one of the girls, who was underage, onto the floor of the casino to play blackjack. He was apprehended by Mississippi gaming officials and tried to negotiate his way out of the situation by proclaiming he was a Louisiana State Police lieutenant and “can’t we work something out?” He was fined $600 by Mississippi officials and promoted to commander of Troop F by Edmonson.

A trooper who twice had sex with a female while on duty (once in his patrol car, no less), was barely disciplined at all.

Troopers at Troop D were given days off for making a minimum number of DWI arrests, no matter if the driver was actually drinking. Just make the arrest and let the district attorney dismiss the case—you’ll still get credit for the stop—that was the unwritten policy.

Another trooper at Troop D owned a daytime construction company. So, instead of working a full shift at night, he would work a couple of hours and then go home to sleep the rest of the night so he could work his private job during the day. This was allowed to go on for an extended period of time until LouisianaVoice revealed what was taking place.

Department of Public Safety (DPS) Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux was allowed to take a buyout for early retirement but stayed retired only a single day before coming back with a promotion and about $55,000 in early buyout money which she was ordered to return—but did not. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/08/24/edmonson-not-the-first-in-dps-to-try-state-ripoff-subterfuge-undersecretary-retiresre-hires-keeps-46k-incentive-payout/

When she finally retired for good, Edmonson, appearing before a compliant State Police Commission stacked with his supporters, pushed through the creation of a new lieutenant colonel position to take over her duties. In pitching the position, he told the commission that it would create no additional cost and that it was not being designed specifically for Maj. Jason Starnes.

Guess what? Starnes got the job, the promotion, and a $25,000 raise. Now he administers Management and Finance for LSP despite having no accounting degree or background. When member Lloyd Grafton asked about Edmonson’s promise of no additional expense, no one on the commission seemed to remember.

It was Grafton who first used the term “money laundering” when discussing how the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) funneled LSTA funds through the personal checking account of its executive director David Young so that political contributions could be made to key political candidates. Young subsequently submitted expense reports for reimbursement of the campaign contributions. Grafton should know a little about money laundering: he is a retired ATF agent.

The LSTA did refuse Edmonson’s request that the association pen a letter to Governor-elect John Bel Edwards recommending that Edmonson be reappointed superintendent. Edwards reappointed him anyway.

And, going back to 2014, there was that surreptitious amendment inserted onto an otherwise benign bill in the closing minutes of the regular legislative session. State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) did the honors in introducing the amendment. Passed overwhelmingly over the promise that it would have no financial impact on the state budget, it instantly awarded Edmonson a healthy bump in retirement income.

Edmonson had, years earlier, entered what was referred to as DROP, a special retirement plan that was said to be “irrevocable” which at the time locked in his retirement at about $76,000. At the time the amendment was approved, it would have meant an additional $55,000 to his retirement but with the recent pay increases pushing his salary to its current level of $177,400, it would have meant a retirement increase of a whopping $101,000.

LouisianaVoice was notified of the amendment via an anonymous letter. That was when Mike Edmonson first appeared on our radar.

Then State Rep. John Bel Edwards, who unwittingly voted for the amendment, subsequently called for House Speaker Chuck Kleckley to investigate the maneuver but the invertebrate Kleckley refused.

State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) then filed suit in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge and a district court judge struck down the amendment.

Edmonson, true to form, at first denied any knowledge of the amendment but later admitted that one of “his people” came up with the idea and he gave the approval.

That was pretty much in line with the blaming of his secretary for using a signature stamp to approve overtime pay for that San Diego trip and his decision to throw the four who drove to San Diego under the bus for taking an unauthorized detour—even though it has since been learned by LouisianaVoice that he knew the route the four were taking and was in touch by text and phone the entire trip.

That’s the Edmonson persona. He has consistently shirked responsibility for actions that could cast him in a bad light and basked in the glow when things went well. He even is said to have told a retiring trooper—a veteran of two tours in the Mideast wars, no less—that he was a coward and a disgrace to his uniform in a late-night telephone conversation.

While other media have only recently joined in the investigation of LSP and Edmonson (and make no mistake, it was heartening to see them doing solid investigative work), LouisianaVoice has been there all along. This was not a sprint to LouisianaVoice, it was a marathon. And if this sounds a little vain and boastful…well, it is.

And it isn’t over. LouisianaVoice has pending numerous public records requests with LSP on other matters within the agency. We do not intend to let Edmonson’s resignation diminish our ongoing examination of why one man was allowed to bring a great department into such disrepute and disgrace.

The rank and file Louisiana State Troopers deserve better.

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By Steve Winham, guest columnist

I have a regular monthly breakfast with venerable politician and retired state fire marshal, V. J. Bella.  As a legislator, V. J.  never shied away from taking bold actions (think cabbages inside motorcycle helmets hit with baseball bats) and his background and devotion to the cause made him uniquely qualified as fire marshal.  He is also a good friend.

Among other topics, we always have lengthy discussions about Gov. Edwards.  At our most recent breakfast last week, V. J. said he believes Gov. Edwards is running for re-election too early.  He may have a strong point and, based on recent press reports, the game is already afoot to discredit him every way possible by at least one Republican PAC (America Rising). It has already launched a website to gather negatives about Edwards.  The plan, of course, is to stress his failures, including those dealing with our budget, economy, infrastructure, education, etc.

If the governor attempts to please as many people as possible over the remainder of this term in hope of being re-elected, how can he possibly recommend the very difficult and unpopular solutions necessary to begin to move us up from dead last among the states by most measures.  In an ideal world, making those hard choices would endear him to the public and ensure his re-election.  Unfortunately, the real world is not the political world.

If, in my dreams, I was Gov. Edwards, I would announce today that I am not running for re-election as governor, nor running for anything else.  I would then make dramatic changes unilaterally and push a legislative agenda that would move our state forward without a care for my personal political future.

As a bonus, taking bold, but politically unpopular actions would allow legislators to blame everything their constituents didn’t like on me.  That worked well for legislators even in the good times, so it could work even better now  –  “I put that rodeo arena in the capital outlay bill, but the governor vetoed it.  Vote for me and I’ll get it in there when we get rid of him next election.”

There is no question our budget is seriously broken.  Nor is there any question that is our major problem.  Our infrastructure is crumbling.  Our educational system continues to decline – Both strongly contribute to our stagnant economy and enhance a basic distrust of our government.  Businesses cannot reasonably plan because they have no idea how they will be taxed over time.  People dependent on state services have no assurances for the future.

All state services not completely protected continue a steady march toward total breakdown.  At the same time, we see almost daily news reports of waste, fraud, and corruption within government.  The public has lost faith in the ability of government to do anything right.

The first thing I would do is call my cabinet together and tell them I am tired of seeing news reports about things they should have been paying enough attention to catch and fix.  It’s not that hard to get a handle on these things.  It is a simple matter of working down the chain of command and holding people accountable at every level.   More on this later.

I would use the excellent January 2017 report of the Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy and other information to put together a firm proposal of both expenditure cuts and revenue measures to permanently fix the gap of $1.2 billion that will result from expiration of sales taxes in July 2018.  Further cuts are unlikely to be popular, but they will be much more popular than additional taxes.

Since people are fed up with government, and because I believe it is needed now more than ever, I would do something I recommended in 1990.  I would take existing staff from the budget and accounting sections of the Division of Administration to create a small entity called the Office of Effectiveness and Efficiency.  I would send this team to every department, beginning with the most troublesome one and working down. They would take a common-sense look at how things are being done and recommend changes to make them better.  I would expect full cooperation from my cabinet secretaries.

Restoring the public’s faith in government is a daunting task, but it should be of highest priority.  Until people begin to have this faith, they will never believe anybody in government cares about waste or providing the best services possible and they will certainly not enthusiastically support sacrifices to support such a system.  It is simply not possible to begin to restore faith in government if political commitments override all other concerns.

We desperately need stability to achieve anything in this state.  Pandering to popular beliefs not supported by facts to win elections clearly does not work for the greater good.  An objective look at what has happened since our most recent presidential election should tell you that.

So, I would challenge Gov. Edwards to take the bold step of not seeking re-election and to announce it immediately so he can be free to fight the battles necessary to set us straight.  If he did, he might just find people begging him to change his mind and run again after all – And, if that happened, it would put a whole new, and ironic, spin on V. J.’s view.

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